This recipe comes from food.com, but behind the website is Mina the Brat, who in turn is sharing the recipe she got from a friend’s Cuban mother.
What’s striking to me is that whereas some flan or caramel custard recipes uses heavy cream, this one uses both evaporated milk and condensed milk. Which I’m guessing is because fresh milk just isn’t that available. Which in turn explains why the cafe con leche in Cuba tastes different - I’m betting it’s also made with either evaporated or powdered milk. That would also explain the extra sweetness.
The recipe suggested cooking the flan in one large flanera or casserole dish. I don’t have a flanera, and I was nervous about ‘turning out’ a whole big flan without destroying it, so I settled for little ramekins. The recipe made eight, which was great, since we were serving only five, so I got to ‘test’ one at lunch time! I wasn’t sure how to adjust cooking times to account for the ramekins, so I checked with other recipes, and I’ve given here the time and temperature that worked for them. IF instead you want to cook one big flan, I’d suggest 45 minutes at 350 degrees, and then leaving the flan in the turned off oven for another 10 minutes to finish setting.
First step: grease the bottom and sides of 6-8 ramekins, very lightly, with butter. Just a smear - to help the custard slide out at the end.
For the caramel:
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons water
Put 2 teaspoons water in bottom of small pan. Add 1/2 cup of sugar, and heat until it dissolves and turns a nice dark golden brown. Stir as little as humanly possible. Immediately (while it’s still liquid), pour enough into each ramekin to coat the bottom. Allow to solidify.
Fit all the ramekins into a baking dish or casserole dish that will allow you to pour water in so that it reaches at least half way up the sides of the ramekins. The custard is going to bake in this ‘water bath.’ Fill a kettle, bring it to a boil, and then let it sit until you are ready to pour the water around the ramekins. It’s best that the water be hot, even before the whole thing goes in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
For the custard:
- 1 whole egg
- 5 egg yolks (save the whites for other uses!)
- 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1 (14 ounce) can condensed milk
- 1/2-1 teaspoon (depending on taste) vanilla extract
Beat the egg and egg yolks together - a whisk works well. Add the two cans of milk and the vanilla extract and mix well. Use a jug (for control) to pour the custard mixture, into the ramekins, on top of the hardened caramel. [HINT: Don’t completely fill the ramekins on the first pouring - that will let you make sure you have enough, and you can come back and ‘top up’ if you’ve got left over mixture.]
Pour the hot water from the kettle around the ramekins, topping it up with more hot water from the tap if necessary, until the water reaches at least half way up the sides.
Now comes one of those instructions that sounds SO easy, and is, in fact, a little more tricky. Put the baking dish with the ramekins in their water bath into the oven (on a middle-ish shelf), and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off, and after another 10 minutes remove the dish from the oven.
What’s so hard about that? Getting the dish in and out of the oven without spilling hot water on yourself, or getting some of it into the ramekins - that’s what! Just take your time, and use a steady hand - it helps if the baking dish is deep enough that the water isn’t too close to the top.
Lift the ramekins out of their water bath and cool. Chill for at least one hour before serving. However - I personally think flan has more flavor if it’s not ice cold, so if it’s had several hours of fridge time take it out as you sit down to start the meal, so that it’s had time to warm up a little before you eat it.
To plate the flan, run a butter knife around the outside edge of each ramekin. Put a plate large enough to handle both the flan and the liquid caramel over each flan and invert. Shake a little to help it slide out. Garnish the top of each flan with a mint sprig (to be authentically Cuban) and serve.